Last night’s “Boardwalk Empire” episode, titled “Home,” introduced another pipsqueak version of a historic gangster with “Michael Lewis,” the snappy-talking young sharpie who tries to make a deal with Chalky White on behalf of the New York mob. We find out later that Michael Lewis is an alias for Meyer Lansky, a real person who becomes a major figure in organizing America’s crime syndicate. Here, he comes across as exactly the kind of hyper-verbal wiseguy the young Steve Buscemi played all the time.
Chalky, perhaps unimpressed by Lansky’s youth or Manhattan references in his spiel, sends him packing, assuming that he’s an agent of Nucky sent to test Chalky’s loyalty. In a subsequent scene, we see that Lansky serves as both frontman and sidekick to Luciano (who’s torn himself away from Gillian’s bed this week). Luciano officially teams up with Doyle and the young Italian gang, and gives them a tip to knock over Nucky’s casino, a heist which will apparently happen next week.
Nucky spends most of the episode preoccupied with family matters after his father, the demented old coot we saw at St. Patrick’s night banquet, falls and breaks his leg after arguing with his housecats. Nucky and Eli talk about the state of the family homestead and their dear old dad: Nuck wants to ship him off to “The Sailor’s Home” (which must be a nursing home, but sounds like a euphemism for Davy Jones’ Locker). Eli is perfectly willing to take the old man in. Nucky offers the house to Fleming, a young ward boss, showing that he’s magnanimous about other people’s families, but resentful of his own childhood. The ailing Commodore (apparently an ex-con) was Nucky’s spiritual father, but may not be long for this world, either.
Margaret meets with one of her fellow “concubines,” who advises her to amass as much cash as she can while allowing Nucky to keep his secrets, suggesting that the men will end up resenting mistresses who know their weaknesses. (Eli and Van Alden both recognize Margaret’s potential damage/value as a witness.) Margaret takes the advice and cuts off Nucky when he attempts to talk about his father. When Nucky withdraws emotionally, Margaret realizes her mistake, apologizes and draws Nucky out, and he tells stories of his father’s hateful behavior.
Nucky invites Margaret to see the restored home, but Margaret can’t go, so “Uncle Nucky” brings her son instead, indicating a growing attachment to the Schroeder family. Nucky’s father and Eli are their, though, and after the dad snarls at him, Nucky sends the young boy to the car, drenches the house with something flammable and burns it down. Fleming shows up, distraught, and Nucky hands him a roll of bills. The subplot feels, in a good way, comparable to “The Sopranos,” and how on that show, the better natures of various gangsters would invariably give way to their self-centered, destructive impulses.
In other subplots, Agent Van Alden meets the decoy from the pilot episodes booze-heist massacre, who wants to make a deal to give up Jimmy Darmody. Van Alden’s gives the tiniest little smile that nevertheless registers his delight. Meanwhile, we discover that Angela, mother to Jimmy’s son, is far more “bohemian” than Gillian realizes and has been having a steamy affair with the photographer’s wife. (“This show has everything,” my wife commented during the Sapphic sequence.) A motif of disease runs through the episode, from the state of the Thompson family home to the hygiene posters at the hospital to Nucky's dinner-table recitation of "Some Little Bug" (hat tip for the link to The AV Club).
In Chicago, Jimmy’s injured leg has been plaguing him, so he visits a veteran’s hospital, where a smoking doctor suggests there’s something wrong with a screw in his metal implant. “So you’re saying I have a screw loose?” he quips. Jimmy meets Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), a brooding former sniper who wears a creepy half-mask to cover his grotesque facial injuries. Jimmy and Harrow strike up a conversation over reading matter: Jimmy’s reading ‘The Tin Soldier,’ Harrow a Tom Swift book. The doctors want them to give themselves a “personal inventory” as a psychological test, but they decide to ignore the hospital’s vision of normalcy. Michael Pitt movingly conveys Jimmy’s psychological wounds as a war veteran, which until now have been the show’s least convincing details.
“Home” begins with Jimmy learning the whereabouts of the guy who slashed Pearl’s face, so it makes perfect sense that Jimmy would try to help another disfigured person. Under Jimmy’s influence, Harrow regains his ability to lie, drink whisky, sleep with a woman (at the Chicago whorehouse) and, finally, kill. Jimmy confronts the Pearl-slasher at a diner, recounts an ugly story from his wartime experience, but says he’s not going to kill him. Jimmy leaves and a shot rings out, shattered a water pitcher and neatly dispatching the slasher.
And as the camera tracks from the bullet hole in the diner window to Harr"ow with a rifle in the opposite building, an organ-music version of Bach’s "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor chimes ominously on the soundtrack. Supposedly the music is playing at the Atlantic City movie theater where Lucy is watching Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but the composition is particularly associated with The Phantom of the Opera, a murderer who, like Harrow, wore a mask to conceal his disfigured face. I hope we see more of Harrow, since Jack Huston (grandson of John Huston and nephew to Angelica and Danny) gives a superbly moody performance.
Several times on “Home,” the incidental music puckishly comments on the action. There’s whimsical music underneath Lansky’s pitch to Chalky, and more sentimental tunes when Fleming talks about his wife’s efforts to keep their baby alive. Even when dealing with some of the heaviest themes imaginable, “Boardwalk Empire” this week reveals a pleasingly light touch. "Home" may be my favorite "Boardwalk Empire" episode next to the one where Van Alden tortured the guy in the dental chair.
Did Nucky’s father say that “Your mother found me,” when he was lying on the kitchen with a broken leg? Surely he’s delusional and Nucky’s mother is dead, but do we know that for sure?
This week a clearly-spurned Lucy barges in on Nucky and gets rebuffed, but exacts a promise for Nucky to take her to Dr. Jekyll. Lucy ends up at the movie alone, contemplating a movie line about man’s “evil nature” —does she have some kind of revenge in mind?
Speaking of which, boy it's been a long time since Stephanie Ramage has been screaming…
Why do you think that Reed is less corrupt than 3 of the…
I kicked my 3-4 can a day Coke Classic habit 2 years ago. About a…
i really hope he isn't going zell miller on us. he's done so much for…
Police, Fire, General employees have been ignored for years!!!! It is time for a good…
Translation: I'm running for re-election and I think I can buy your vote on the…